' ' Cinema Romantico: Red Nose Day Actually

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Red Nose Day Actually

The long awaited fifteen minute sequel to Richard Curtis’s cinematic sugar plum fairy “Love Actually” (2003), a made-for-TV special titled “Red Nose Day Actually” as a nod to Comic Relief Inc.’s  non-profit dedicated to helping poor children, opens with a variation on one of the original film’s most infamous sequences in which Mark (Andrew Lincoln) turned up on the porch of Juliet (Keira Knightley), for whom he pined despite her marriage to his best friend Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor), with a set of cue cards to secretly communicate his affection before then letting said affection go. For the short sequel, Mark is back on Juliet’s doorstep with another set of cue cards, not to re-pledge his love of Juliet, however, but to introduce his own bride, Kate Moss, who is, I guess, herself. Kate has her own set of cue cards, demonstrating how “Red Nose Day Actually” is content simply re-serving all the best-loved bits of “Love Actually” but with slight variations and skoshes of self-awareness, which is why Peter acknowledges Mark and Kate Moss’s presence from his couch. If in “Love Actually” Peter remained oblivious to the cue cards, here he is clued in, because “Red Nose Day Actually” is entirely sentient.

That sentience is ok, I suppose, even if the charm of the original partly stemmed from its full-fledged belief in the spiritual nourishment of its spun romantic sugar. It’s ok because, hey, if you re-gather the lovelorn troops for a sequel to support a good cause by so blatantly servicing its fans, well, who wants to be the grinch issuing red check marks? Still, while I have nothing against duplicating so long as it is expanded upon with gusts of creative fresh air, the duplications of “Red Nose Day Actually” were more reminiscent of Melissa McCarthy’s Sean Spicer sketches this past season of Saturday Night Live – you know, pretty strong that first time around and then nothing but a recycling of the jokes from that first time around with minimal augmentation.

So here’s Aurelia and Jamie back in the front seat of a car; so here’s Sarah (Laura Linney) working late; so here’s Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) being interviewed at Radio Watford; so here’s The Prime Minister (Hugh Grant) dancing. It is warm and fuzzy and familiar, like Jamie’s un-stylish turtleneck, which he is still wearing much to Aurelia’s chagrin, while also issuing little life updates, like Aurelia and Jamie’s kids and Sarah’s (oddly over-convivial) spouse and Billy Mack’s deceased manager. These are meant to tug on the heartstrings of true “Love Actually” believers, though perhaps because these days the world seems to be adorned with a black veil rather than a red nose, it made me think just as much about those who are MIA, like wacky raconteur Colin Frissell (Kris Marshall), who I fear must’ve been run out of Scott Walker’s Wisconsin, and Karen (Emma Thompson) and Harry (Alan Rickman), their marriage on the rocks when last we saw them and are not seen here which inevitably leads one to assume that they must have been divorced and still are not on speaking terms.

Even Daniel (Liam Neeson), who hints at being fairly rich, is introduced glumly sitting on that same bencha long the Thames, Claudia Schiffer nowhere in sight. He’s brightened when Sam (Thomas Sangster) shows up with Joanna (Olivia Olson) as they reveal their engagement which is totally wonderful! Even so, what stayed with me more was how haggard Daniel looked sitting on the bench, wondering what got him down, realizing I’d never know, realizing that in spite of its fan-friendly whimsy “Red Nose Day Actually” could not stop specks of some vague reality from intruding, evoked in the running-in-place nature of the repeated comic bits, or in the low-key tragedy of life’s relegations, like Rowan Atkinson’s Rufus, the jewelry salesman whose overwrought exhibition of gift-wrapping in the first one is re-visited here. Now, see, he’s gift-wrapping at a Walgreens, which ha ha, and he gift-wraps so long there is a line stretching out the door and down the street, which ha ha some more. But going from an upscale jewelry store to a Walgreens hints at a less than stellar career trajectory, which is not whimsical at all, something perhaps best left to square with another fourteen years from now in “Death Actually.”

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